Section: Research Program

Analysis and modelling of human behavior

Scientific Context

The purpose of this axis is to provide metrics to assess human behavior. We place ourselves here from the point of view of the human being and more precisely of the industrial operator. We assume the following working hypotheses: the operator's task and environmental conditions are known and circumscribed; the operator is trained in the task, production tools and safety instructions; the task is repeated with more or less frequent intervals. We focus our proposals on assessing:

  • the physical and cognitive fragility of operators in order to meet assistance needs;

  • cognitive biases and physical constraints leading to a loss of operator safety;

  • ergonomic, performance and acceptance of the production tool.

In the industrial context, the fields that best answer these questions are work ergonomics and cognitive sciences. Scientists typically work on 4 axes: physiological/biomechanical, cognitive, psychological and sociological. More specifically, we focus on biomechanical, cognitive and psychological aspects, as described by the ANACT [12], [15]. The aim here is to translate these factors into metrics, optimality criteria or constraints in order to implement them in our methodologies for analysis, design and control of the collaborative robot.

To understand our desired contributions in robotics, we must review the current state of ergonomic workstation evaluation, particularly at the biomechanical level. The ergonomist evaluates the gesture through the observation of workstations and, generally, through questionnaires. This requires long periods of field observation, followed by analyses based on ergonomic grids (e.g. RULA [30], REBA [21], LUBA [26], OWAS [25], ROSA [46],...). Until then, the use of more complex measurement systems was reserved for laboratories, particularly biomechanical laboratories. The appearance of inexpensive sensors such as IMUs (Inertial Measurement Units) or RGB-D cameras makes it possible to consider a digitalized, and therefore objective, observation of the gesture, postures and more generally of human movement. Thanks to these sensors, which are more or less intrusive, it is now possible to permanently install observation systems on production lines. This completely changes paradigms and opens the door to longitudinal observations. It should be noted that this is comparable to the evolution of maintenance, which becomes predictive.

On the strength of this new paradigm, ergonomic robotics has recently taken an interest in this type of evaluation to adapt the robot's movements in order to reduce ergonomic risk scores. This approach complements the more traditional approaches that only consider the performance of the action produced by the human in interaction with the robot. However, we must go further. Indeed, the ergonomic criteria are based on the principle that the comfort positions are distant from the human articular stops. In addition, the notation must be compatible with an observation of the human being through the eye of the ergonomist. In practice, evaluations are inaccurate and subjective [50]. Moreover, they are made for quasi-static human positions without taking into account the evolution of the person's physical, physiological and psychological state. The repetition of gestures, the solicitation of muscles and joints is one of the questions that must complete these analyses. One of the methods used by ergonomists to limit biomechanical exposures is to increase variations in motor stress by rotating tasks [47]. However, this type of extrinsic method is not always possible in the industrial context [28].

One of Auctus' objectives is to show how, through a cobot, the operator's environment can be varied to encourage more appropriate motor strategies. To do so, we must focus on a field of biomechanics that studies the intrinsic variability of the motor system allowed by the joint redundancy of the human body. This motor variability refers to the natural alternation of postures, movements and muscle activity observed in the individual to respond to a requested task [47]. This natural variation leads to differences between the motor coordinates used by individuals, which evokes the notion of motor strategy [22].

As shown by the cognitive dimension of ergonomics (see above), we believe that some of these motor strategies are a physically quantifiable reflection of the operator's cognitive state. For example, fatigue [43] and its anticipation or the manual expertise (dexterous and cognitive) of the operator which allows him to anticipate his movements over long periods of time in order to preserve his body, his performance and his pain.


How can we observe, understand and quantify these human motor strategies to better design and control the behavior of the cobotic assistant? When we study the systems of equations considered (kinematic, static, dynamic, musculoskeletal), several problems appear and explain our methodological choices:

  • the large dimensions of the problems to be considered, due to joint, muscle and placement redundancy,

  • the variabilities of the parameters, for example: physiological (consider not an operator, but a set of operators), geometric (consider a set of possible placements of the operator) and static (consider a set of forces that the operator must produce);

  • the uncertainties of measurement, model approximation.

The idea is to start from a description of redundant workspaces (geometric, static, dynamic...). To do this, we use set theory approaches, based on interval analysis [48], [36], which allow us to respond to the uncertainties and variability issues previously mentioned. In addition, one of the advantages of these techniques is that they allow the results to be certified, which is essential to address safety issues. Some members of the team has already achieved success in mechanical design for performance certification and robot design [32]. The adaptation of these approaches allows us to obtain a mapping of ergonomic and efficient movements in which we can project the operators' motor strategies and thus define a metric quantifying the sensorimotor commands chosen with regard to the cognitive criteria studied.

It is therefore necessary to:

  • propose new indices linking different types of performance (ergonomic   biomechanical   robotics, but also influence of fatigue, stress, level of expertise on the evolution of performance);

  • divide the gesture into homogeneous phases: this process is complex and depends on the type of index used and the techniques used. We are exploring several ways: inverse optimal control, learning methods, or the use of techniques from signal processing.

  • develop interval extensions of the identified indices. These indices are not necessarily the result of a direct model, and algorithms need to be developed or adapted (calculation of manipulability, UCM, etc.).

  • Aggregate proposals into a dedicated interval analysis library (use of and contribution to the existing ALIAS-Inria and the open source IBEX library).

The originality and contribution of the methodology is to allow an analysis taking into account in the same model the measurement uncertainties (important for on-site use of analytical equipment), the variability of tasks and trajectories, and the physiological characteristics of the operators.

Other avenues of research are being explored, particularly around the inverse optimal control [37] which allows us to project human movement on the basis of performance indices and thus to offer a possible interpretation in the analysis of behaviors.

We also use automatic classification techniques: 1) to propose cognitive models that will be learned experimentally 2) for segmentation or motion recognition, for example by testing Reservoir Computing [23] approaches.